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YONEX All England Day Three Review: English Interest Ends Sport-rated




Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith exited the YONEX All England Open on Thursday following a tough second-round encounter at the Utilita Arena Birmingham.

Birch and Smith impressed in their first round match on Tuesday, but faced a tough challenge in the second round against Japan’s Wakana Nagahara and Mayu Matsumoto.

The Japanese pair have not won a title since their All England success two years ago, although they are two-time world champions and former world number ones.

All of their experience and pedigree shone through in the opening game in which they gave Birch and Smith little time to breathe.

It was difficult for the English stars to generate pace in the opening stages, with Naguhara and Matsumoto barely making a mistake as they won the opening game 21-9.

And unfortunately it was a similar story in the second game for Birch and Smith, the Japanese building an imperious 15-5 lead.

Birch and Smith didn’t go without a fight and made up some ground, but they couldn’t stop their opponents from riding to a 21-9, 21-10 victory to reach the last eight.

“It was difficult. We were both very disappointed, but they need a lot of credit for what they did,” Birch acknowledged afterwards.

“They are former world champions and they showed it out there. We’re a little disappointed with some of the things and we made too many mistakes, but we fought until the end, tried to turn things around and own it, but it wasn’t good enough.”

Smith singled out Matsumoto as particularly difficult to handle, with the Japanese star proving too tactically and technically astute in a controlled display.

She added: “Matsumoto was really dominant in the midfield and up front. He was very skilled with the shots he hit to tie us up and get us out of position. Once they got the attack going, it was hard to hold them back on defense.

“They got all the attack and they worked the attack better than us. We didn’t get the attack enough and when we did get it, we were like, ‘ooh, we finally got it’ and we were a little bit anxious.

“They are a world-class couple and have had very good results. They just outplayed us, but we tried to keep implementing different tactics. None of them worked, but maybe next time some of them will.

“We will learn from this game and build for future tournaments.”

As they look to continue building their renewed partnership, Birch and Smith now take on a busy spell of action with the All England, the first of five tournaments in as many weeks.

They will then be in action at the YONEX Swiss Open next week, where they open their tournament against Germany’s Linda Elfer and Isabel Lohau.

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